For your Guitar to look and sound it's best for the longest period, occasional cleaning and maintenance will be required. We've compiled a short list of hints and tips to help you do just that.
The hints and tips can also be adapted for Banjos, Ukuleles and Mandolins as they share many similar characteristics.
Before you Play -
- Make sure your hands are clean - avoid eating anything greasy like crisps or chips before you play as any dirt, grease or residue on your fingers will be transferred to the strings as you play, which will shorten the life of the strings and make them sound dull and unresponsive much quicker. It can also be transferred to the fretboard which will make the guitar harder to play.
- I recommend using a string lubricant and cleaner like the GHS Fast-Fret before playing. This helps to clean away any residue from the last time you played and helps the strings to sound brighter for longer. It also helps the fretboard and is paint/wood friendly so won't damage your finish. It also claims to help you play faster, but I'll let you all make your own minds up on that one!
- Give your guitar an occasional clean. Furniture polish will do the job just fine (used sparingly) but for the perfectionist there are a range of products specifically marketed at guitars. Every now and then give it a wipe over with a soft, damp cloth soaked in warm water and only a drop or two of detergent. Take the worst off and allow the residue to dry naturally. For untreated finishes, you might want to invest in a wax or use Lemon Oil just as a once over.
- Depending on how often you play, change the strings every 3-4 months to keep the guitar sounding it's best. It's best to change the strings quickly so that the neck is put back under tension. It's not good to leave it without tension for long periods. One method involves changing the strings one at a time so that the neck is constantly under tension. Having done it personally both ways (taking all of the strings off and doing it one at a time) so long as you get the new strings on fairly quickly, it won't matter which method you use. One benefit of taking all of the strings off is that it allows you to clean the fretboard with some Lemon Oil - this removes built up dirt, residue and dust and also helps keep the fretboard supple.
- Keep it in tune. If the guitar is flat, this isn't so much of an issue, but if you tune by ear and tune it sharp (ie above the standard EADGBE) for long periods it can cause undue tension on the neck, bridge and saddle and you run the risk of breaking strings or worse, bowing the neck. The best way to keep it in tune is with something like the Rocket RT10BK, which just clips onto the headstock. It's also chromatic so you can use any tuning you like.
- Oil and clean the tuning mechanisms very occasionally. These are at the top of the neck where the string winds around it. Any household oil like WD-40 is fine, but baby oil or vaseline also work. Use very sparingly - you can always put more on, you can't take too much off.
- If storing the guitar for an extended period without playing, tune it down about 1/2 a step. This keeps tension on the neck but takes a little pressure off to avoid any damage.
- Wall hooks, in the case or on a floor stand? Most methods are fine as long as you bear in mind a simple rule - don't expose the guitar to things you wouldn't want exposing to yourself. This means rooms which experience large fluctuations in temperature or humidity like a conservatory, anywhere it will sit in direct sunlight. A guitar will get used to the environment it's kept in, so any sudden changes aren't good for it. Don't leave it in a hot car or in the back of the car overnight if you can help it.